- Vegetables: greens (leafy), greens (lettuces)
- Crop Production: food processing, greenhouses
Greens harvesting is done at scale when grown in the field during the summer season with specialized mechanized harvesters. The winter greenhouse growing systems that use soil filled trays don’t have a mechanized harvester commercially available that fits the scale of these operations. There is a true need in the agriculture community for an automated belt feed tray harvesting system that can remove the painfully slow process of hand harvesting microgreens and winter grown salad greens. The few tools that are on the market for growers are hand held and too small and often use a band saw technique that does not work well for small greens and tears the greens cut point resulting in more cosmetic damage, poorer shelf life and results in a longer time for regrowth. The purpose of this grant is to use our engineering background to develop and demonstrate a salad greens automated harvesting bench top tool that could cleanly harvest greens at least 10x faster than by hand and with greater precision for improved regrowth and a higher quality product. This tool after demonstration would be commercialized and made available to the agriculture production community.
Design and demonstrate a tray based automated greens harvesting system that is at least 10x faster than hand harvesting resulting in winter greens production being more economically viable.
We believe this is a very innovative project that is working to solve a real world agriculture technical challenge with innovative technical design. The fact that the marketplace is lacking a tool with this capability reinforces the need as the face of agriculture expands to include more greenhouse and non-field production of food.
A few of the design attributes targeted include:
- DBelt feed of tray with adjustable belt speed
- DEasy and adjustable cutting height DEasily adjustable for various tray widths
- DHarvested greens storage with easy access DMade with all food safe materials
- DEasily cleanable after harvest DPlan to use a novel cutting system
- DIncorporate operator safety into the design
- DOperating speed 10x faster than hand harvest with stretch goal of 20x DCommercially manufacturable here in the Midwest
- DDesigned for small-mid volume farmer affordability
This project benefits the agriculture industry by providing a tool that can help facilitate the expansion of greens production in a whole array of different venues. Removing a significant barrier to production will enable others in the agriculture and greenhouse community to embark on their own ventures to grow more food.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Develop and demonstrate a fully automated tabletop salad and microgreens harvesting tool for use in soil filled tray production of salad greens, herbs and similar leafy greens.
- Positively impact the environment by locally producing salad greens, decreasing the need to import salad greens long distances, particularly during the winter.
- Empower farmers economically by developing a way to grow salad greens throughout the colder months as an alternate or extended stream of income and by making this process more efficient through the use of the fully automated tabletop salad and microgreens harvesting tool.
- Benefit consumers by providing local, healthy, high-quality salad greens.